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Rapists, Child Molesters Treated With Most Lenience: Washington Examiner

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Why does it seem like the people who commit the most heinous sex crimes are the ones getting multiple breaks from the courts?  Apparently, I’m not the only person wondering.  I certainly hope the Washington Examiner doesn’t mind that I’m copying their article in its entirety.  It’s so staggeringly rare to find stories outside the “Hooray, We’re Emptying the Prisons” media drumbeat these days:

Freed criminals prey on public

By: Scott McCabe
Examiner Staff Writer
March 21, 2010

From left: Darryl Hazel, Robert Joseph Williams and Virgilio Nunez

Cops hunt felons turned loose by system

A high percentage of the top fugitives sought by U.S. marshals in the region had been in the hands of authorities only to slip away through cracks in the legal system or questionable judicial decisions.
Of the criminals designated “Most Wanted” by the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, more than 70 percent had been released from custody for various reasons, requiring marshals’ deputies to track them down again.

Imagine the cost of tracking these felons down, not once, but twice, and sometimes more than that.

Some presented a clear danger to area residents:

» Two-time convicted killer Darryl Hazel was two months out of prison when he was arrested on drug charges, released on his own recognizance and went into hiding.

» After Virgilio Nunez was charged with 15 counts of child sex abuse involving multiple children, the El Salvador native was allowed to post $10,000 bail. He remains on the loose, authorities said.

» Robert Joseph Williams was out on supervised parole after serving 20 years of a 35-year prison sentence for raping his adoptive mother. He was put on supervised probation. But during that time he was charged again with drug distribution. He violated the conditions of his probation and disappeared.

» D.C. Jail inmate William Brice, awaiting trial in a near-fatal shooting, was allowed to be released into the custody of his defense attorney and attend his father’s funeral. The inmate fled the funeral, his lawyer failed to notify the court and Brice has the been on the run for more than two years.

William Chambliss, a criminologist at American University, said the biggest mistake when talking about the law or the courts is to think the system is rational, organized and precisely managed.

“It’s fundamentally flawed,” Chamblis said. “It’s impossible to create a large bureaucracy that is not going to make a lot of stupid mistakes.”

Hazel, 33, already had two murder convictions under his belt when he was re-arrested in D.C. for misdemeanor marijuana and heroin charges last year. At age 15 he pleaded to the shotgun death of a Capitol Hills store clerk. At age 22, Hazel killed again, this time in Northern Virginia. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in federal court, served eight years hard time and was placed on probation.

So this guy killed two people.  He served something less than 15 years for two murders.  The D.C. court simply decided to stop monitoring him, and once they got around to picking him up again, he’d been involved in another shooting:

According to records, after his drug arrest, D.C. court officials attempted to call Hazel’s probation officer but the officer had been transferred and the replacement was unavailable. Five days later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office withdrew its request to keep him behind bars.

Hazel was set free and told to return to court in four weeks. He didn’t.

Seven months later, on the day he was featured as a Most Wanted fugitive in The Examiner, U.S. marshals said they got a tip from a reader who reported that Hazel was living under the name of a dead relative. Marshals arrested him.

During their investigation, detectives discovered that Hazel was involved in a shooting three months earlier while using his alias. Hazel has not been charged in connection with the shooting.

Hey, why bother charging him?  It’s just his third known violent crime.  And the other two were just murders.  Yet what you read in virtually every newspaper, day after day, is overstimulated, breathless reporting on “alternative sentencing,” emptying the prisons, and the newest pro-offender cash-cow, “prisoner re-entry.”

None of these initiatives, they tell, us, will apply to violent offenders, of course.

They’re lying:

The most lenient cases, said one Maryland prosecutor, seem to fall on people accused of sex, child abuse or domestic violence crimes, especially if the supsect “doesn’t look like central casting with the knuckles dragging to the floor.” One violent sex offender had to be picked up three times for violating his parole.

Virgilio Nunez, 44, was indicted on 15 counts of child sex abuse in February 2009 when a Montgomery County court commissioner allowed him to post a $10,000 bond, authorities said. Nunez, who was born in El Salvador, hasn’t been seen since. Nunez’s court records were sealed under adoption privacy laws.

State’s attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy’s office said he could not comment.

Valencia Mohammed, a victim’s rights advocate who lost two sons in separate killings, said she’s amazed that Nunez was allowed to post bail.

“Immigrants seem to be let off on things that I know that we would be held on,” Mohammed said. “Why give them the opportunity flee? Why put the bail so low or make the sentence so lenient that you let the person out to commit so harm? It makes no sense.”

Joe diGenova, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said these incidents are inevitable in a system that handles huge numbers of cases.

It happens all the time,” said diGenova. He said sanctions should be considered against judicial officials whose mistakes endanger the public. “This is important stuff,” he said. “The public relies on the function of the system.”

Good luck with that “judicial sanction” fantasy.  Judges are above the law: there are barely any mechanisms by which they censure each other, and forget about the rest of us weighing in.  What of that defense attorney who helped his client escape?  Were there even consequences?

Duplicative, hyper-vigilant review boards monitor every move the police make; civil rights organizations scream endlessly over every defendant’s rights and privileges; prosecutors face a rising tide of disruptive legal actions to keep them from doing their jobs.  But defense attorneys can do virtually anything in court with no fear of censure, and judges who fail to enforce sentencing law or make appalling errors that result in wrongful releases are never held responsible.  Not even when someone gets murdered as a consequence of their carelessness.

No, consequences are for the little people.  The non-lawyers, non-judges, non-criminals.

~~~

Here is a very interesting post from Britain by a cop who sees the same thing, day in and day out.  The cops pick them up, and the courts cut them loose, says PCBloggs:

[I]t disturbs me that the courts seem to operate in a world apart from the rest of us, with no accountability whatsoever when flagrantly ludicrous decisions are made and a nonsense made of facts. I have sat in court and heard a defence solicitor telling a magistrate that his client had not been in trouble with the police since the incident in question, with no recourse whatsoever for me to leap to my feet clutching the defendant’s police print screaming “Damned lies!” If a police officer falsely presented facts in court, regardless of whether through ignorance or malice, they would be rightly investigated and potentially prosecuted.

Likewise, if a police officer attended a report of child rape and decided to leave the offender wandering free to attack his next victim, he would probably be jailed for neglect. This judge remains free to continue unchecked. It appears that in the interests of a fair trial, anything goes.
So should the Yorkshire Ripper achieve his parole and go onto offend days, weeks or months later, the judge who frees him would at the worst face removal from office via an internal process. More likely, they would merely be villified in the press but no actual sanctions brought, largely because there are no serious disciplinary or criminal measures that can be brought. I am not suggesting we can or should realistically prosecute masses of judges for manslaughter or neglect for every offender who reoffends under their grammercy. But why should those options be ruled out when they weigh on the minds of every other member of the criminal justice process? Why should accountability fall at the last hurdle?
Why should accountability fall at the last hurdle?  Indeed.

Criminal Appeals: Why Was Serial Rapist Ali Reza Nejad Out on Bond?

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The good news: U.S. Marshals in Houston caught violent serial rapist Ali Reza Nejad after he slipped off his ankle monitor and fled Georgia upon hearing that the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed his conviction and 35-year sentence last week.

Nejad, Before and After Dye Job

The bad news? Violent serial rapist Ali Reza Nejad was allowed to stroll out of prison after being convicted of two rapes, while his case worked its way through the ridiculous and expensive appeals process in Georgia’s horribly overburdened courts.

More bad news? We all paid for Nejad to play Georgia’s horribly overburdened court system from the comfort of his own home.  Then we paid to track him down again after he fled.  Why on earth didn’t anybody in a position of authority bother to think through the potential effect of the Supreme Court’s negative ruling on this crazy serial rapists’ state of mind and go pick him up, or at least put him under constant surveillance, before he found out that he was heading back to prison for the rest of his adult life?

And why was he allowed out of prison to await appeal on frivolous grounds, anyway?  All rapists are dangerous criminals, but this guy qualifies as central-casting-woman-loathing-sexual-sadist-armed-with-a-gun-escalating-and-stalking-prostitutes-dangerous.

~~~

Criminal Appeals

Nejad appealed his conviction on two grounds: the perennial ineffectual counsel claim, and his lawyer’s insistence that there is some gray area in defining a gun as a deadly weapon.  None of this was about whether Nejad did, indeed, pull guns on women and rape them: it’s just meaningless technicalities piled one on top of another until the courts can’t function or somebody slips up and lets a serial rapist like this back onto the streets.

(I can’t link directly to the pdf files for the Georgia Appeals Court decision that led to Najad being wrongfully released or the Georgia Supreme Court decision that reversed the overturning of his trial verdict and sent him back to prison, but you can access the pdf files by typing Najad v. State.)

As to the first claim, famous-defense-attorney-type Brian Steel, who has been practicing criminal law in the courts and on front pages in Georgia for a very long time, insisted that he had both completely and repeatedly lost the capacity to function as even an ordinary lawyer, let alone a really famous one, throughout the entire trial.

An Appeals Court judge devastatingly called Steel out on this fiction and expressed concern that what the lawyer might be trying to do was perpetrate fraud.  It’s worth reading this and pondering the court’s suggestion that defense attorneys are knowingly front-loading their representation of clients with errors in order to get them off later, when there’s no other expectation of acquittal.  Ugly stuff:

SMITH, Presiding Judge, concurring specially.
I concur fully in the majority opinion, but write separately to point out an area
of increasing concern in claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Trial counsel’s
testimony in this case demonstrates a worrisome trend with serious implications for
the bar
and the administration of justice.
Taking the record on appeal at face value, we are presented with several
possible and equally questionable explanations for trial counsel’s testimony at the
hearing on the motion for new trial. Trial counsel may, despite his many years of
experience, simply have been unaware of the well-established rule of law governing
a defendant’s right to testify. Or he may have in fact so instructed his client in order
to provide a ready-made reversible error on appeal in the event of a conviction. Or
he may have testified untruthfully at the hearing on the motion for new trial in order
to provide his former client with a basis for reversal of his conviction.
None of these possibilities, which are by no means exhaustive, reflects well
upon trial counsel. Whether he is so incompetent as to call into question his ability to continue in this area of practice, or whether he has conducted himself in such a manner as to perpetrate a fraud upon the court, is not for us to say.
But we view any of these possibilities with alarm. The trial court was similarly concerned, asking trial counsel, “Don’t you think you have some responsibility to the system?”  Typically, trial counsel in such situations testify primarily to the factual details of their conduct and decisions, and admit errors only with reluctance and with due regard for their professionalism and pride in their work. The developing trend of emphatically and even eagerly testifying to one’s own incompetence or misconduct is dangerous to the administration of justice, particularly if it is allowed to continue without any consequences for the testifying trial counsel.

There are no consequences, no matter what the defense bar does, or lies about doing.  That’s why we have so many rapists and murderers walking the streets.  Beginning, middle, and end.  We’re all at their mercy, in a system they have been jerry-rigging for half a century.

The Georgia Supreme Court, in an unanimous decision, reversed the appeals court on the determination of incompetent counsel.  They observed that nobody has a positive duty to continually inform a defendant that he may, in fact, testify.

They also reversed the appeals court’s ruling that the jury should have been asked to decide whether holding a pellet gun to someone’s head is assault with a deadly weapon.  It’s extremely settled law that wielding a gun, even a pellet gun, that way is assault per se with a deadly weapon.  I’m surprised that appeals court agreed with Nejad’s lawyer on this matter.  Here is the Supreme Court:

During the jury instructions concerning the two counts charging Nejad
with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the trial court informed the jury
that the crime is committed when the accused, with a deadly weapon, places
another person in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent
injury.
The trial court then told the jury that “A pellet gun in the shape of an
automatic weapon is per se a deadly weapon.” The Court of Appeals ruled it
was error to give the “per se” charge, reasoning that a pellet gun is not a per se
deadly weapon and it was for the jury to resolve whether the manner and means
by which it was used made it a deadly weapon. Nejad v. State, supra, 296 Ga.
App. 163 (2).  A firearm is a deadly weapon as a matter of law. Wyman v. State, 278 Ga.
339 (4) (602 SE2d 619) (2004). A firearm pointed at a victim and reasonably
appearing to the assault victim to be loaded is a deadly weapon as a matter of
law, regardless of whether it is loaded and, under such a circumstance, the trial
court does not err when it takes the issue of “deadliness” from the jury.

So there you have it. Ali Nejad picks up prostitutes, rapes them at gunpoint, and does the same to so many women that word gets around on the streets.  The police catch him, being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process; the courts try him, being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process; the case is decided by jurors being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process — and then the moment he is convicted, the free-for-all game-playing begins.

From the moment jurors return a guilty verdict, everything’s perpetually up for grabs, at our expense.  As the manipulations by the defense bar grow more and more extreme, judges and prosecutors can only protest impotently.  We’ve designed a system in which defense attorneys can say anything, do anything, cost the rest of us anything, intentionally throw a trial, intentionally bankrupt the courts — but they cannot be held responsible for this conduct.

I predict that the only people who will be blamed for the Nejad debacle are the people who would have kept him in prison in the first place: the officers tasked with monitoring him after a judge let him go free to await the outcome of the appeals process.  They don’t deserve any blame.  They caught Nejad, twice now.  It’s the rest of the system that has failed to keep the public safe.


Admissability of Evidence, Assignment of Blame: The Paterson, NJ Rape Case

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Man rapes, tortures five daughters, impregnates them repeatedly, forces them to deliver babies at home.

Administers beatings with steel-toe boots, wooden boards.  Withholds food, doles out extreme psychological torture.

Flees authorities.  Keeps the young women captive for decades.  For their lifetimes.  Receives probation after getting caught once.  Some of the babies die.  Daughters, wife forced to secretly bury them.

But what about the admissibility of evidence?  Isn’t that what’s really important here?

AP — A New Jersey man with apocalyptic visions is accused of years of terrorizing his family, raping his five daughters and impregnating three, beating his children with wooden boards and even moving at one point to avoid child welfare investigators.  The nightmarish picture of a family subjected to more than a decade of threats and violence and largely cut off from the outside world is emerging in a state courthouse where prosecutors are preparing to have the man stand trial five times, one per child victim. . . . In her testimony, his daughter described experiencing and witnessing beatings administered with wooden boards and steel-toed boots. She said minor transgressions often were punished by the withholding of food.   The girl’s mother testified some of the babies were delivered at home and never received birth certificates, and said in at least two instances babies who died in the home were buried without authorities being notified.  The children were home-schooled, she said, and were discouraged from interacting with other kids.  “No one really asked questions of each other because somebody would tell on somebody and somebody would get in trouble,” she said.  Even after she became aware of sexual abuse, she said she was too frightened to confront him.  “I was afraid to ever accuse him of being demented, or being a pedophile. I knew the word but I wouldn’t dare use it because it would result in a beating,” she said. “I’m sure my not standing up to him didn’t help the kids. They felt disempowered also. There was just a lot of fear. Everybody was threatened.”  Daryl Pennington, an attorney representing the defendant, did not return messages seeking comment

Now, wait for it . . .

Attorneys are scheduled back in court on Friday, when state Superior Court Judge Raymond Reddin is to rule on the admissibility of the wife’s testimony.

It’s the system, not Judge Reddin’s fault, but they will spend more time in that courtroom quibbling over rules of evidence than talking about the crimes themselves.  Such is our justice system, after fifty years of defense-driven exclusion of evidence rulings.  The truth, the whole truth, about what this man has done will unavoidably take a back seat to our sickening and criminal-biased criminal procedural rules.

So who, other than the defendant, is at fault?

Usually, the media’s default angle in a case like this is the “failure of child protection authorities” line.  But is it really the child protection workers who failed when the court lets him go?  In this case, child protection did their job by getting this animal into a courtroom and at least temporarily removing one of his children from the home.  They some judge cut him loose.

Many reporters view child protection workers as fair game — prosecutors and judges, not so much.

Refreshingly, the AP reporter here does not point fingers at the child protection workers and call it a day.  He seeks comment from the prosecutors in the previous case, where the offender was permitted to walk away from extremely serious charges.  However, the reporter doesn’t name the judge who delivered such a lenient sentence.  Maybe the prosecutors were asking for more time.  Maybe it was the judge’s fault.  Maybe both the prosecutor and the judge wanted to throw the book at this man, but they were constrained by a system that still makes it difficult to hold people responsible for crimes committed against their own children.  Here is the AP account:

As the first [rape] case nears trial, questions have been raised about whether state authorities could have put a stop to the abuse sooner. Some of the crimes are alleged to have occurred while the family was under scrutiny by the state child welfare agency, and after the father had been arrested and pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment.

During that time, child protection authorities has already brought the man to court.  His success in essentially beating the charges (mere probation, despite fleeing, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, abuse) cannot be laid at their feet.  Doubtlessly, beating those charges empowered the abuser.  I’m sure the child protection workers feared for his daughter’s lives after the court cut him loose.  Then, this:

Arrested in 2006, [the defendant] stands accused of raping five of his daughters, three of whom are believed to have given birth to a total of six children. He is being held on $1 million bond.  Having been ruled competent to stand trial earlier this year, he faces 27 charges including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, lewdness, child endangerment, aggravated criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual contact.

He is back in jail now, awaiting trial, but this man was out of jail on bail for the 2006 rape charges for a very long time.  NorthJersey.com has more troubling details about his time out, below.

If the defendant was being evaluated for mental competence, for such serious offenses — five young rape victims, three repeatedly impregnated by him — and if the question was whether he even had the ability to control this behavior (shades of the twinkie excuse of sexual assault), and if his wife and daughters had been tortured by him and were terrorized by him, and he believed their lives were his to destroy, what the hell was he doing out of prison for five minutes, let alone 3+ years, while being “evaluated for psychological competence”?

What type of system says to a serial rapist and torturer: OK, you may not be able to control your rapin’, torturin’ behavior, so we’re going to cut you loose while your lawyer drags out the process of getting you checked out by the yours-and-mine shrinks?

Our system.  I wonder how many other little girls this rapist was able to “get” while awaiting trial this time.  We know some of what he did the last time he walked away with a slap on the wrist:

Authorities say the assaults began in the mid-1980s and lasted until 2002, when the parents separated, and occurred at residences in Paterson, East Orange, Orange and Eatontown. . . According to court records and published reports, the girls’ father was arrested in 2000 and charged with kidnapping for allegedly trying to take three of his children from state custody at a Monmouth County medical center. He posted bail and later pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment and was sentenced to a year’s probation. Prosecutors in Passaic County say one of the daughters, then in her early teens, was raped as late as January 2002.  New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services declined to comment, citing confidentiality requirements.  But the man’s wife and one of his daughters testified that the agency had indeed removed at least one of the children from the family’s home, and that the family had temporarily moved, first to Jersey City and then to Florida, to avoid the agency’s investigation.

Who was the judge in the 2000 case?  What does he or she have to say about the decision to give him probation for such serious offenses?

NorthJersey.com has more information about the 2006 bail decision. The defendant has been out on bail for years and was only remanded six months ago.  Read this horrifying passage carefully:

It is a complicated series of events that led a state Superior Court judge in Paterson to remand [the defendant] to the Passaic County Jail on Sept. 24 after having been free on $500,000 bail since his 2006 arrest. [He] is awaiting trial on charges he sexually assaulted his daughters and deliberately impregnated them.  [The defendant], 50, committed the sexual assaults from 1985 through 2002 in Paterson, East Orange, Orange and Eatontown, according to prosecutors. Authorities have described him as a “blueblood,” or someone who believes in keeping his bloodlines pure, and that the assaults were a disturbing attempt to create “purebred” offspring.  A hearing is scheduled before state Superior Court Judge Raymond Reddin in Paterson on Tuesday to determine how to deal with the matrix of factors that have made and could continue to make the $280,000 home he used as collateral for his bail insufficient. [The defendant] will remain in jail as long as the matter is unresolved.  What led to the suddenly precarious status of [the defendant's] bail was that prosecutors noticed the defendant was apparently accompanied by a woman and a young child at a recent pretrial conference before Reddin last month, said Joseph Del Russo, Passaic County chief assistant prosecutor. Defendants in sexual assault cases — as a condition of bail — are often ordered not to have contact with small children. Prosecutors checked to see if such a no-contact order was part of [the defendant's] bail conditions set back in 2006. As it turns out, it was. But that became a side issue when prosecutors noticed an even bigger problem, Del Russo said.  “We began to discover that his original bail posting — that is, the original process of posting bail with the County Bail Unit — was flawed,” Del Russo said. The most glaring problem, Del Russo said, was that proof that the property [the defendant] owned was worth $285,000 and was unencumbered — meaning no liens against it — was misleading. The document providing that proof was actually a title search produced by the seller of the property, according to Del Russo.

Let me attempt to reign in my disgust here long enough to paraphrase:

This child-raping animal has been walking free for 3 1/2 years while his attorneys successfully deflected his trial on multiple rape and torture charges.  By now, the defendant is so unworried about consequences that he actually showed up in court with a woman and young child — knowing full well that by having the child with him, he was violating his bail conditions in a child-rape case — in front of law enforcement, the prosecutor, and the judge.

However, the revelation that the child-rapist had another child under his control isn’t what landed him in jail again.

No, the endangering-another-innocent-child-after-impregnating-three-of-your-daughters-six-times-and-raping-two-others isn’t the problem.  Oh, heck no.  That, according to the reporter, the courts can swallow.  Regarding that, they’re good with the guy being out on the streets indefinitely.  Another two or three years, at least.

So what’s this bigger problem than child rape?  Real estate valuation.

The quote bigger problem unquote is that the child-rapist’s house, which he put up for collateral for bail, has some title issues and needs to be reappraised.  Yes indeed, that’s far more relevant than letting a child-rapist traipse out of the courtroom with another little baby in tow:

The most glaring problem, [Passaic County assistant prosecutor Joseph] Del Russo said, was that proof that the property [the defendant] owned was worth $285,000 and was unencumbered — meaning no liens against it — was misleading. The document providing that proof was actually a title search produced by the seller of the property, according to Del Russo.”The seller produced for [the defendant] a title search that showed the house was paid for — free and clear — and unencumbered,” Del Russo said. “Instead of [the defendant] showing his interest in the property, he showed us a document from the seller, rather than from him. So we don’t know, when he brought the house, whether he had a tax lien that followed him, or if he took a second mortgage on it. It was certainly misleading, let’s put it that way.”

Pardon me for being blunt, but shouldn’t the prosecutor be raising hell about the fact that the child rapist has a little child in his custody instead of prattling on to the media about real estate minutiae?

To heck with the mental state of the defendant: unless the NorthJersey.com reporter got the story very wrong, the heads Passaic County authorities need to be examining are the ones on the northern end of their own necks.  While the rest of us examine our hearts.  Doesn’t child rape matter?  Child rape.  Impregnating your daughters, over and over again.  Forcing them to give birth in front of you, for the love of God.  Making them bury their babies in secret.

Kicking their little bodies with steel-toed shoes.  Between rapes.  The prosecutor is busy talking about real estate?

~~~

Whenever I read a story like this, I wonder at the lack of outrage.

  • Where are the campus rape activists and the N.O.W. activists, with their “take back the night” marches and “teach-ins” and glossy “no-means-no” leaflets?  Is that all just . . . self-serving theatrics?
  • Where are the legal activists and law school students and law professors who pour millions of dollars and thousands of hours into investigating perfectly legitimate convictions every year because “every single injustice is unacceptable” . . . unless, of course, it is injustice absorbed by the victims of crime?
  • Where are the across-the-disciplines academics who never met a violent offender who didn’t simply titillate them?  Do they ever doubt their loyalties, ethics, or research claims, looking at a case like this?
  • Where are the tough-on-crime politicians?  Are conservatives still playing shy on child molestation because their “pro-family” constituents don’t like the state messing with private lives?  Are the “dad’s rights” deadbeats whining about attacks on the patriarchy again?  The small government purists linking arms with the A.C.L.U. to denounce prison costs?
  • Where are the crusading journalists, especially self-styled experts like Dorothy Rabinowitz, who has been dining out on the story of two (two!) bad child rape prosecutions from two decades ago, although no pattern of wrongful prosecution was ever uncovered (because none existed)?  Rabinowitz’s large-print account of the Amirault and Michaels cases has done immeasurable damage to the ability of prosecutors to convince jurors that a child has been raped, yet Rabinowitz has never revisited her own claims that these anomalous cases represented anything other than a real good chance to present herself as some sort of breathless freedom fighter.  “Like lightning, the charge could strike anyone” she trilled.  With no supporting evidence.  Because there was none.  This shameful chapter in the usually reliable Wall Street Journal’s history, and Rabinowitz’s histrionic, projection-heavy, thin-on-facts book, No Crueler Tyrannies, could both use an honesty makeover via some attention to the unfolding Paterson case, which has far more in common with the  average child molestation case than the handful of decades-old cases Rabinowitz still rails about.

You know, in the interest of opposing cruel tyrannies.

Sex Offender Two-Step: Those (Pricey) Revolving Prison Doors

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Crime Victims Media Report is back, after an unexpected hiatus.  Some updates:

Loc Buu Tran

A reader informs me that Loc Buu Tran, previous granted probation for a kidnapping and sexual assault in Clearwater, Florida has finally been convicted of murder in Orlando, after his trial for slaughtering his girlfriend was repeatedly delayed:

Another appeal in the making, yes, but a little light filters through this cloudy justice journey. Today, Loc (Anthony) was judged “guilty, 1st degree murder”. His jury found fourteen stabs a bit zealous for simply giving her the head’s up that he was in control.

Jo Frank

Loc was convicted of sexual battery, kidnapping, and obstruction of justice in 1998.  The woman he kidnapped and raped had “rejected him.”  For this shockingly violent crime, he got . . . a get out of jail free card by some sympathetic judge who probably believed it was merely an acting-out-sort-of-kidnapping-and-rape-thing.  Two years probation for sexual assault and kidnapping.  They probably apologized to him for his inconvenience.

In 2001, the state had another chance to punish Loc and protect women when he violated his probation by committing multiple acts of credit card fraud.  Consequently, he faced prison time for the sexual assault, along with the new charges.  But instead of taking into consideration his new status as a recidivist, another judge gave him another “first offender” chance and telescoped down all his charges to one sentence.  You can guess what happened after that:

[A]fter letting Tran get away with a known rape for four years, then catching him violating his probation with several other charges, then sentencing him to an absurdly short prison term . . . [t]he State of Florida let him go early, after serving only 26 months of a 38 month sentence.

They also apparently trash-canned the rest of his probation, for good measure.  It’s all about prisoner “re-entry,” you know.  Probation’s a drag.  How dare we ask judges to enforce the law when rapists need to be rehabilitated back into society and given job training and that all-important-help getting their voting rights reinstated (Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s weird hobbyhorse)?

As we know now, Tran “re-entered” society with a bang.  A slash, really, stabbing [another] young woman to death when she tried to break up with him.   Given the court’s repeated bungling of his case this time, you have to wonder if he’ll ever really be off the streets.

Well, he is now, at least until the defense attorneys manage to find the golden key that sets the rapists free.  When Floridians pay property taxes this year, they should remember that they’re now bankrolling Loc’s endless appeals.

I’ll be writing that in the subject line of my check.

Maybe it would be cheaper if we just let him go again, like all the anti-incarceration activists chant.  Of course, they’re also the ones making it so expensive to try people in the first place.  CourtWatcher Orlando, which witnessed Tran’s trial(s), has more to say about the way defense attorneys ran up costs at his trial.  Tran committed murder in 2006.  A few months ago, after the state finally got around to trying him, his trial was suspended because the judge realized Tran had been her client earlier in his epic crawl through the courts.  Responsibility for this mess-up can be laid directly at the feet of the defense bar, which has made prosecuting any defendant so mind-numbingly drawn-out and irrelevantly complicated that the courts can’t cope with even an obvious murder like this one.  Every delay is a victory for the defense bar, which tries to make trials as expensive as possible in order to bankrupt the system.

Then last month, Tran’s trial was postponed again because a translator got sick.  That means dozens of people on the state payroll, and all the jurors who had reorganized their lives to do their duty to society, and the traumatized family members and witnesses, were all left twiddling their fingers for the second time in a row.  Yet CourtWatcher is reporting that Tran didn’t even need a translator.

And, of course, we paid for the translator.  If we had not paid for the translator, that would doubtlessly be grounds for appeal, even though Tran didn’t need a translator.  Nevertheless, I predict that something relating to the translator will be appealed anyway, just because it’s there.  All this costs money.  Our money.

Instead of letting convicts out of prison early to save money, state legislators should be taking a hard look at the ways the defense bar wastes our money, all in the name of some people’s utterly manufactured version of “rights.”  It’s another must read from Orlando, here.

~~~

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Michale Coker writes to report the capture of Charles Eugene Mickler, one of the absconded sex offenders featured in a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

You will be happy to know Mickler is currently in the Gwinnett County Detention Center on a probation violation. This weirded me out since I know this guy. Oddly enough it was Need To Know* publications where I discovered he was wanted.

Charles Eugene Mickler

*Need To Know is one of the for-profit broadsheets detailing offenders.  It is not on the web but sells in hard copy.

Mickler does not appear to have served any time in prison for his 2007 sexual battery conviction.  Then he absconded.  Of course, the story in the paper didn’t raise the question of why someone convicted of sexual battery was not imprisoned for the crime.  Instead, the reporter wrote that the public need not worry about all those absconded sex offenders because they generally “just” target people (ie. children) they know.  Except for the ones who didn’t, as I detail here.  See my original post here.

How many of those absconded sex offenders have been located?  The media already answered that question.  The answer goes something like this:

How heartless of you to believe these men should be monitored, you vengeful hysterics!  I’m not telling.

In fact, the only coverage, to date, of these 250 absconded sex offenders has been the one story focusing on scolding the public for caring that these men have violated parole and gone hiding.

Policing public sentiment is so much more important than policing sex offenders, you know?

~~~

Until it isn’t:

Chelsea King

King’s parents, at a vigil, after her body was found.

John Albert Gardner, who is being held in Chelsea King’s murder, is a convicted sex offender who had been given an easy plea deal for a prior sex offense.  He could have served 30 years in prison but was released in five, instead, against the recommendations of psychiatrists, who said he was a high risk to attack more little girls.

But, hey, California saved some money cutting him loose instead of incarcerating him, didn’t they?  And prisoner re-entry is so important.

Now Gardner is also being investigated in other horrifying crimes.  Isn’t there a different end to the story?

According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, a 16 year old girl, walking to a friend’s house in Lake Elsinore, said a man pulled over and asked her for directions. She told police he asked if she was a virgin, showed a gun, and tried to force her into the car. She ran away. This happened in October 2009.

At the time, Gardner was not registered as a sex offender in Riverside County because he was living in San Diego County, said John Hall, with the District Attorney’s office.  Gardner registered in Riverside County, in January, when he moved to his grandmother’s house near Lake Elsinore.

Escondido police are trying to figure out if Gardner is responsible for the disappearance of a 14-year-old Escondido girl.

Gardner is also a suspect in the case of a 22-year old girl who was attacked in the same area where King’s car was found.

Gardner had already admitted to molesting a neighbor girl back in 2000. According to court records, he had lured her over with a movie.

King’s parents are planning a memorial. During an interview, King’s parents expressed concern that Gardner was released from jail after serving only five years, despite a psychiatric evaluation that recommended he stay locked up for 30 years.

John Gardner

Disturbed enough, yet?  Here is more disturbing information:

As recently as November 2009, Gardner registered as a sex offender at an Escondido address two miles from the school.

People living at the Rock Springs East condominiums said they were shocked to learn Gardner had lived in their building.

A woman with small children who lived next door to Gardner and recognized him from photos posted online over the past few days said he lived with a blond woman and two toddlers.

The former neighbor, who didn’t want to give her name, said teenagers, both male and female, often came over to play video games at Gardner’s apartment. She said she could hear the loud games through the walls.

She and other neighbors said Gardner had moved out about six months ago.

In 2000, Gardner was convicted of a forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment after he took a 13-year-old neighbor girl to his mother’s home in Rancho Bernardo. The girl accused him of repeatedly punching her in the face and touching her private parts.

A psychiatrist who interviewed him in that case said he would be a “continued danger to underage girls” because of the lack of remorse for his actions.

Prosecutors initially charged Gardner with more-violent sex crimes that could have resulted in a sentence of more than 30 years because the terms would have been served consecutively. He was sentenced to six years in prison as part of a plea agreement and served five years before he was released in September 2005. He completed probation in 2008.

In 2000, Gardner didn’t go out and attack a stranger: he targeted someone he knew, a 13-year old neighbor, to be precise.  If Gardner had lived in Georgia, that would qualify him for the “don’t worry, those absconded sex offenders only target people they know” category.

Until they don’t.  And what does it matter anyway, except as an idiotic argument by people who can’t stop justifying the behavior of sex offenders and opposing sex offender registries?  Gardner’s record illustrates a disturbing point that anti-registration types never acknowledge: it takes real nerve, and a real lack of worry over consequences, to target children who know you and can identify you.  Maybe people should be more worried, not less worried, about child molesters who know their victims.  Unlike anti-incarceration activists, child rapists don’t worry so much about the distinction.  They go after children they know, and they go after children they don’t know: one is just easier to access than the other.

Although the real solution would have been to never let Gardner out of prison again, once the sick coddle of California justice cut him loose, DNA database laws and sex offender registration probably saved some lives, including the lives of the little girls whose mother was shacking up with Gardner.  How could any mother let some man move into her house, with her two young children, without checking to see if he shows up on a sex offender registry?

If you know a co-habitating mother who hasn’t checked her partner’s background, do it for her.  Today.  The world is full of sex offenders cut loose by some judge or prosecutor or parole board.

Killer Craig Wall Given $1000 Bail, Kills Again: When Prosecutors Act Like Defense Attorneys

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Craig Wall

This guy, Craig Wall, a violent convicted recidivist felon, is a suspect in the murder of his five-week old son earlier this month.  The baby’s mother then received a restraining order on Wall, and when he violated it last week, he was arrested.  The investigation into the baby’s death — the fact that he was a murder suspect — should have been presented in court after his arrest.  But the prosecutor simply didn’t mention it.  Instead he offered Wall a plea deal, a small fine in exchange for pleading guilty.  Wall even rejected the plea (hey, why take halfsies if it’s clear that nobody is going to bother to hold you responsible for anything, anyway?).  He was granted bond instead — for $1,000 — also with the prosecutor’s blessing.

Then Wall walked out of the courtroom and killed his baby’s mother.

Who’s responsible?

~~~

The better question might be, who isn’t responsible? The prosecutor’s boss, Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, said he was “dumbfounded” by his employee’s actions.

Bernie McCabe, state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties, said his staff needs to be reminded of fundamental principles that were not followed in this case.  His chief assistant, Bruce Bartlett, plans to meet today with prosecutors who handle misdemeanor hearings.  “They are being paid to be advocates and not just stand there with their hands in their pockets,” Bartlett said.

Good for McCabe for acknowledging that something is horribly wrong.  The question remains whether this is an isolated incident or the status quo in the offices McCabe oversees.

Wall is accused of stabbing to death Laura Taft, 29, early Wednesday . . . Two days earlier, Wall was released from the Pinellas County Jail on a $1,000 bond after a bail hearing. No one at the hearing mentioned that Wall was a suspect in the death of his 5-week-old son this month, even though police had noted that fact in the arrest affidavit.

So information about a murder charge is not even mentioned in a court hearing to determine whether a defendant who has violated a restraining order is too dangerous to be released on bond?  What, then, does get mentioned?

Was the prosecutor just not doing his job?  Or is he one of many prosecutors who are using their office to train to become defense attorneys — the more lucrative, and in many powerful circles, more culturally admired job?  Was the prosecutor simply overwhelmed by work and forced to try to settle this case — any case — with minimum effort?  This is how we starve the courts.

And what of the judge?  What does he have to say?

~~~

Here is a related murder case in Orlando, with some interesting statistics.

Outrage: How, Precisely, Did Delmer Smith “try to go straight”?

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The Sarasota Herald Tribune, a newspaper with an addiction to excusing, or at least minimizing, the behavior of the most violent criminals, just did it again.

In a front-page story on Delmer Smith, the brutal South Florida serial killer and rapist charged with yet another woman’s death last week, the paper boldly asserts that Smith “tried to go straight” after his release from prison.  Did he, really?  Is there proof for this fascinating claim?  They don’t offer any: they just say it’s so.

Down here in the real world, Smith was committing extremely violent rapes within weeks of being released from prison.  Confronted with such facts, why would any newspaper leap to limning the silver lining of the rapist’s character?

Habit, I suppose.  In the moral universe of the SHT newsroom, all ex-cons are automatically presumed to be earnest practitioners of self-reform . . . until they’re not, and sometimes even after that.  In Smith’s case, the distance between the prison door and his first known violent attack is actually extremely short.  Released in October 2008, he attacked and beat a female jogger a few weeks later and then immediately committed a violent home invasion and sexual assault of two additional women.  Escalating attacks followed.

The Herald Tribune, however, doesn’t bother to mention this inconveniently compressed time-line.  How could they, and simultaneously resuscitate the beloved theme of felons and second chances?  It’s as if they laid all those brutalized women alongside a story they like to tell about crime and punishment — a story in which hope springs eternal for the rehabilitation of any criminal — and chose the story, over the reality.

They had little to work with, far less than a widow’s mite, but that didn’t stop them.  It’s Valentine’s Day Week, after all:

Delmer Smith III spent much of his life in prison before finally being set free in 2008. Upon his release he moved in with his wife in Bradenton, a woman 23 years his elder that he met as a prison pen pal.  For a brief spell, Smith, 38, seemed to be living within the law, seeking work as a personal trainer, a mechanic and at a grocery store.

Poor Delmer.  Such hopes and dreams.  If only society had been more welcoming to him, why, then, it might have taken him more than one holiday sales season to start raping and killing women.  You see, it’s all our fault.

The Tribune story is drawn largely from claims made by Smith’s geriatric jailhouse pen pal and ex-beau — you know, one of those pathetic women who seeks excitement, attention, and romance by getting involved with violent prisoners.  Women like this regularly cross the line from accommodating to abetting.  That, and the decision to shack up with violent felons in the first place, ought to make reporters wary, but it’s amazing what can be overlooked in the rush to non-judgment.  The Tribune allows this woman to prattle on, behind a veil of anonymity, about her romance with Smith on the same week another victim’s family has been forced to publicly re-live the murder of their wife and mother:

[Smith's] wife — a 61-year-old woman who no longer lives in the area but asked that her name not be used for fear of retribution — first befriended Smith almost 10 years ago. Another inmate was writing to the woman’s friend and asked if Smith could contact the Bradenton woman by phone. A few days later, he called and their relationship took off.  Over the years, they wrote back and forth, including a Valentine’s Day card she still has. One day he called and proposed. She agreed and the woman says they had a ceremony in the penitentiary.

Their relationship “took off.”  She still has his Valentine’s Day card.  How touching.  I’m glad we all know that, because it sort of humanizes him, doesn’t it?

Given their track record (see here, here, and here), I’m actually surprised the Tribune didn’t go even farther — interviewing, say, a forensic psychologist for hire or a “re-entry” expert to offer up platitudes about how we all have to work harder to make offenders feel welcome once they’ve paid that pesky debt to society.  Meanwhile, the paper’s official antipathy towards all types of post-incarceration monitoring — expanded DNA sampling, registration lists, living restrictions –blinds them to the fact that, in the absence of such laws, Smith might still be on the loose.

No, you couldn’t possibly go off message (especially in a news story) and acknowledge that expanding the DNA database really does saves lives (when administered properly, that is).  Better to stick with the usual song-and-dance about ex-cons turning over new leaves, though it hardly fits the facts.   The reporter, and his editors, should apologize for this stomach-churning exhibitionism.

Update on Delmer Smith: Another Murder By DNA Database Neglect

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Delmer Smith (see The Guilty Project, here), who managed to get away with at least dozen extremely violent crimes before being identified because the F.B.I. didn’t bother to load his DNA into the federal database, is now being charged in the murder of Kathleen Briles.  Dr. James Briles found his wife’s body in their home.

Kathy Briles, mother of three, would be alive today if the government and our criminal courts bothered to prioritize the lives of victims with half the vigilance they direct towards the rights of offenders.  Pro-offender activists, who hammer away at every effort to monitor violent offenders who have been returned to the streets, are culpable too.

But nobody prioritizes victims, except the police.  Victims remain expendable.

Delmer Smith

Here is Dr. Briles:

MANATEE — Dr. James Briles finally got the chance to focus his rage on someone Thursday, more than six months after finding his wife bound, gagged and beaten to death in a pool of blood in the living room of their Terra Ceia home.

Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube announced that Delmer Smith III — already charged with beating and raping several women in their Sarasota homes — has been served with a warrant charging him with murder in the death of Kathleen Briles on Aug. 3.

Detectives say Smith, 38, bludgeoned the 49-year-old woman to death with an iron antique sewing machine, before stealing several items from the house.

After Steube told a room full of media of Smith’s arrest, Dr. Briles spoke on behalf of his sons, Calvin and Curtis, and daughter Kristen Venema, saying Smith deserves “no quarter.”

“Let me say a little bit about Delmer Smith,” said Briles, who found his wife’s body after returning home from work. “He is a coward, a sociopath and a punk. His sole purpose is to inflict suffering.”

Briles said Smith is not only in jail to protect the public from him, but to “protect him from us.” He spoke of his anger, and the horrifying discovery of his wife.

“Am I angry? Oh yeah,” he said. “You’d understand that if you saw what I saw when I came home.”

Good for him.  He’s got every right to be angry:

Investigators also believe Briles’ death might have been avoided, if not for a backlog in the entry of DNA samples into an FBI database.

The FBI had Smith’s DNA, taken while he was in federal prison on a bank robbery conviction. But since it had not been entered into the database, there was no match when Sarasota detectives last spring submitted evidence from four earlier home invasion attacks.

There wasn’t a match until after Smith was arrested for a bar fight in Venice, and after detectives asked the FBI to enter his DNA into the database.

And after Kathleen Briles was dead.

More coverage.

Part of the story here is police performance.  The cops came through when federal parole agents did not.  Venice Captain Tom McNulty (who also helped put my rapist away for good, after various judges and parole officials cut him serial breaks for two decades), was among investigators in two counties who made the cognitive leap to tie Smith to the home invasion crimes and hold him pending DNA analysis — after Smith was arrested in an unrelated bar fight.

Had that fight happened in any one of a thousand other jurisdictions, there is a good chance Smith would have walked away from jail and been free to keep committing crimes.

Delmer Smith is only one of several serial killers and rapists who have literally gotten away with murder thanks to lax sentencing, nonexistent parole, and failure to enforce DNA database laws — a systematic neglect of legal reforms that cost countless women their lives.  There’s John Floyd Thomas, suspected of killing some 30 women in Los Angeles — his first rape conviction was in 1957.  There’s Walter E. Ellis, who killed at least nine women, and managed to avoid detection because Wisconsin officials failed to bother to hold him responsible for submitting another inmate’s DNA as his own before releasing him from prison.

How many more Delmer Smiths are out there?  One is too many.

The Guilty Project, Wayne Williams: Still Guilty. And the Role of Child Prostitution in his Murders.

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To name all defendants Innocent Until Proven Guilty is a beloved tradition, and an ethical one, at least so long as the pontificating guardians of the reputations and feelings of criminals are willing to let it go once their clients have, in fact, been proven guilty.

Yet this is almost never the case.  Defense attorneys express a touching faith in the wisdom of the public and juries . . . until precisely the moment a guilty verdict is reached.  Then, like lovers scorned, they denounce everything about their former paramours: their intelligence, their morals, their identities, their actions, their collective and individual races.  All are fodder for the endless second act of criminal justice: the post-conviction appeal.

It’s never over, as victims know, particularly when it comes to notorious defendants.  In the weird rubric of prisoner advocacy, the most heinous criminals attract the loudest cries for reconsideration.   Attention-seeking activists and lawyers seize on the worst of the worst to prove their own superior compassion, or to thumb their noses at society in the biggest way.  And so the garden-variety mugger must line up behind the child murderers and serial rapists.

Susan Sarandon won’t be playing your religious confessor in the Hollywood version of your life if all you did was steal a few cars, no matter how badly you feel about having done it afterwards.  Rape and murder a few kids, though, and she might come calling.

~~~

And that brings us to Wayne Williams. Thanks to the notoriety of the Atlanta Child Murders (at least those Atlanta child murders), Williams possesses all the best in serial killer accessories: a team of lawyers laboring (on our dime) to endlessly re-try his case; internet nuts issuing manifestos that nobody can ever really know if anybody is ever really guilty; miniseries and media attentions, breathless stories about DNA testing that disappear from the news when they fail to exonerate, and so on.

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Wayne Williams

The thirty dead children and young men identified as possible ACM victims are themselves a mere accessory to Williams’ drama.  The police continue to seek the killer or killers of several of these victims.  They are (literally) damned if they do and damned if they don’t, as they were throughout the terrible period when children kept turning up dead, but they do it anyway, because the police are tasked to behave professionally despite the unprofessional nature of the accusations hurled their way.

There are probably police serving in metro Atlanta today who were children in southeast and southwest Atlanta neighborhoods at the time when the murders took place.  Did that experience inspired them to become officers?

Few serious books have been written about the Atlanta Child Murders.  There is The List by Chet Dettlinger and Jeff Prugh, and an interesting academic study by Bernard Headley, The Atlanta Youth Murders and the Politics of Race.  Now there is a third, The Atlanta Child Murders: The Night Stalker, written by the prosecutor who proved Williams’ guilt, Jack Mallard.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran an interview with Mallard this week.  It is strangely contentious: the reporter seems to be more interest in arguing with Mallard over Williams’ guilt than asking him questions about his book:

Between 1979 and 1981, 30 young African-Americans between ages 9 and 28 were either killed or declared missing in what was known as the “Atlanta Child Murders” case. The victims’ bodies were found in wooded lots, vacant buildings or the Chattahoochee River.

Williams received a life sentence 28 years ago this month for killing two of the victims, but he was implicated in at least a dozen others. He has said for years that he’s innocent. The doubt that shrouded the case has fueled articles and books by people who still question whether Williams was the sole killer.

Well, not really.  That’s not the question the keeps popping up in appeal after appeal for Williams.  Williams’ advocates are specifically actually arguing that he is innocent of the two crimes for which he was convicted.

Oddly, the reporter interviewing Mallard tells readers to “Judge for yourself,” presumably regarding Williams’ guilt.  What an odd way to begin an interview with the prosecutor in a settled case:

Now, finally, Mallard has heeded the urgings of others and weighed in with his new book, “The Atlanta Child Murders: the Night Stalker.” Though a bit pedantic, the book lays out the prosecution’s strategy, from presentation of evidence to cross-examinations. Here, Mallard, 75 and retired, talks about guilt, doubt and closure. Judge for yourself.

Q: Reading this book, it almost feels as though you’re retrying the case right there in the courtroom. But in writing this did you look back and see things you might have done differently or mistakes you might have made?

Ah yes, he is a prosecutor who successfully convicted someone, so he must have been making mistakes.  Nobody ever challengingly demands of defense attorneys whether they made mistakes.

A: As a longtime prosecutor, what I would do is map out a trial plan, like writing a screenplay; everybody has a part. If you work up the right trial plan, then you expect things to go as you planned it. This trial went according to plan.

Well, we can’t have that, can we?  It sounds as if Mallard simply stands by the verdict.

Q: You relied heavily on verbatim testimony for dialogue in this book and you included a few updates. But why didn’t you talk with any of Williams’ original defense attorneys, at least those who are still around?

A: I knew it wouldn’t serve any purpose. [They’ve] always thought that Wayne was innocent.

In other words, verbatim testimony just isn’t verbatim enough, Mr. Mallard: you should have gone to the other side and given them a platform to call you a liar.  Because, of course, they do that for you whenever they climb onto their soapbox, don’t they?  No?  Well, you should do it anyway.

Q: Williams was basically convicted on the basis of carpet fibers and dog hairs found on the victims, which you argued could only have come from Williams or his home. There are still doubting Thomases out there who think the fiber and hair evidence was suspect in some way. Do you think you finally assuaged any doubt about that evidence with the book?

A: Yes, and I think I mention in [the book], had cameras been allowed in the courtroom — you can look at these fibers and compare them in living color in photographs like the jury did — people would really not be suspicious as to whether or not you can identify a fiber.

Q: Yes, but there are still doubters out there, some who’ve suggested that maybe the fibers were somehow planted or inadvertently transferred by a lab technician in the case.

A: Well, you either believe in law enforcement and scientists or you don’t. What you read on the Internet, that’s not evidence. That’s not tested in a court of law. So much of it that is completely fiction.

Q: OK then, consider me a doubter . . .

Wow.  That pretty much speaks for itself.  And here’s what it is saying: I’m a partisan for the defense, inappropriately assigned to challenge you and your crazy “guilty verdict” ideas.  Next, due to my biases, I’m going to get the legal issue completely wrong:

Q: OK then, consider me a doubter, because after reading your book, I could see how he could have committed more than half of the 30 killings that were investigated as part of the case. But there were at least five cases that just didn’t seem to fit, in particular the killing of the two little girls, Angel Lanier and LaTonya Wilson. All the other cases involved boys and young men. Do you think he killed the two girls?

A: No, no, no. The two girls should never have been on the list. There was no scientific evidence at all, no trace evidence linking them to Wayne Williams. There’s 25 of them that had trace evidence to Wayne Williams.

There were 25 dead youths and boys linked to Williams through the evidence.  The state tried the two strongest cases.  They investigated the h*ll out of those murders, using federal money and assistance.  In the end, they could not try every case.  That is a function of the pricey mess the defense bar has managed to make of rules of evidence and criminal procedure.  When you destroy the very meaning of seeking the truth with all available evidence, you make it financially and pragmatically impossible to convict murderers like Williams for every offense.  So the state did what they had to do, convicted him of the two strongest cases, and closed the ones in which they were confident that he was the killer.

The inclusion of girls on the highly politicized victim “List” has nothing to do with Williams’ guilt.  As Mallard points out, he does not believe they should have been on that particular list in the first place.

Q: Well what about the other five? What do we do with them?

A: They’re still open. If one day there’s ever any evidence, even the girls, they potentially can be cleared. It happens all the time.

Q: Was Wayne Williams your most formidable opponent?

A: He probably was in the sense that he was the lengthiest cross-examination. He was on the stand about three days. He was prepared and he was smart and he was hard to pin down. But he kept contradicting himself and the jury saw right through it. He probably cooked his own goose by taking the stand.

Q: Do you think your book will help the victims’ families heal, or will it just upset them?

A: I don’t think it will hurt, but the families I really feel for. They’ve been used by the defense in the support of Williams in his appeals. When victims’ families are supporting the defense, that’s somewhat unusual.

Q: Have you talked with any of them in the years since the trial?

A: No, I haven’t kept up with them.

Q: Ever visit the grave sites of any of the victims?

A: No. I don’t like graveyards.

Mallard comes across as somebody who did his job, didn’t suffer fools, and doesn’t play romanticized games with serious issues like child murder.  How refreshing.

Q: You make a direct appeal in the book to Williams, imploring him to confess to the killings. Have you heard from him?

A: No.

Q: Why did you make that appeal to him?

A: Well, if he wants to do something to help humanity he could do it by helping these mothers settle in their own minds that the killer is not still out there. He knows there’s nobody else out there.

Now, back to the irrelevant questions about the victims who weren’t linked to Williams:

Q: Is it possible that somebody else could have been responsible for the remaining five deaths we talked about earlier?

A: It’s possible, because we don’t have any direct evidence connecting Williams to them. Those, I would say, we don’t know.

Q: Will you write another book? You’ve been involved in several other high-profile cases that could be good reads.

A: Several cases would make good writing, but I’m not sure I want to get into that again. I want to enjoy the remaining years I have.

By, like, not being repeatedly pummeled by inaccurate gotcha’s by a reporter who doesn’t bother to have her facts straight.

~~~

Angel Lanier and LaTonya Wilson’s murders were, of course, not irrelevant.  Nor were the murders of other youths who met violent ends in the same time and place.  One of the many tragedies of the ACM controversy is that Lanier, Wilson, and other victims are still being used by the media and various activists to advance other agendas.  It’s clear that the AJC reporter mentions these murdered girls only to attempt to poke holes in Williams’ conviction for the uptenth time. Why doesn’t somebody revisit the girls’ lives, and deaths, as if they themselves mattered?

Why are we continuing to obsess over Wayne Williams at all, when we should be talking about child prostitution, an ongoing crisis that created the conditions in which young adults and children were extremely vulnerable to predators like Wayne Williams thirty years ago?

Child prostitution, or, better, child-and-youth sexual exploitation, is the great unspoken subtext of the Atlanta Child Murders story.  Not all the victims were involved in trading money for sex, but many reportedly were.  And when a community accepts, or cannot stop, such behavior, every child is in danger.

That’s the point of H.B. 582/S.B. 304, the important Georgia child prostitution prevention bill sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford).  Thirty years after so many youths lost their lives on city streets where the existence of a wild west “sex trade” drew predators targeting both boys and girls, it’s far past time to leave Wayne Williams to rot in prison and turn our attention to preventing similar murders in the future.

Go to this site to learn how to support the legislation.

The Guilty Project, Kevin Eugene Peterson and Charles Montgomery: Two Sex Offenders Who Would Have Been Better Off Behind Bars

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Early release is going to be a disaster. It would be less of a disaster if the public had access to the real criminal histories of the people being released.  But we’re being kept in the dark: nobody wants to admit the chaos in criminal record-keeping.

genthumbKevin Eugene Peterson

Already, someone has been cut loose on the pretense that was merely a non-violent offender, when he was not.  He immediately tried to rape a stranger.  How immediately?  A few hours.  Expect more of the same:

Kevin Eugene Peterson, who was released from the Sacramento County Main Jail around 11:30 p.m. Monday, was arrested by Sacramento police around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday after he allegedly attempted to rape a female counselor at Sacramento’s Loaves and Fishes on North C Street.

Peterson qualified for the early-release program, supposedly restricted to non-violent offenders, because his latest arrest was for violating parole on an earlier felony: assault with a deadly weapon.  Get it?  He should have still been in prison for the felony weapon charge, but because they let him go early to save money, once he got sent back to prison for breaking the law again, he was classified non-violent, rather than counting the parole revocation as a reinstatement of his previous sentence.

Most people assume that revoking parole means reinstating the person’s original sentence.  That is, after all, what we are told about the parole process.  We’re not told the truth, apparently.

So by failing to abide by the law the last time he was released, Peterson got himself to the head of the line to be released early a second time.  Now a woman has been abducted and terrorized.  Authorities say their hands are tied, however, because they are bound by the rules that classified Peterson as “non-violent”:

Peterson was one of 121 non-violent inmates released from Sacramento detention Monday and Tuesday after the state penal code was re-written as a cost-saving measure.  About 250 inmates were expected to be let free by week’s end.  While good behavior traditionally could cut up to a third of a California jail inmate’s sentence, the new law passed by the state Legislature last year mandated county jail inmates with good behavior be set free after serving only half of their sentenced term.  While all of the inmates considered for early release are non-violent offenders, Peterson was originally arrested in August 2007 in south Sacramento on a felony assault with a deadly weapon.  However, since Peterson served that sentence and was sent back on a non-violent probation violation in December, he was eligible for early release.  Also, the assault with a deadly weapon charge did not result in great bodily injury to the victim, nor did that attack include the use of a fire arm.

More loopholes: because Peterson failed in his effort to do “great bodily harm” to someone, and the “deadly weapon” he used was something other than a gun, the great whirling roulette wheel of justice eventually slotted him out as a non-violent offender.  There are a million such loopholes in our sentencing laws, not to mention the giant classificatory loophole that is plea bargaining.

Which raises a serious, though entirely neglected question: how many of these other “non-violent” offenders slated for release, or released already, are actually violent felons?

When politicians promise that only non-violent offenders will be allowed to walk free in these cost-cutting schemes, they’re lying.

~~~

Speaking of erasing evidence of crime, here is one sadly typical consequence of extreme leniency: subsequent violent death of the offender.  He might have been safer in prison, after all:

charles_montgomery_cousinCharles Montgomery

Charles Montgomery was born in the back room of his grandparents’ house on the 400 block of E. 104th St. in the Green Meadows neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Twenty-four years later he died on that very street, a few houses down, shot on his way home from the store in the early afternoon, his family said. . . Montgomery, a 24-year-old black man, was shot several times in his upper body about 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15 by a man who approached him on foot, police said. Montgomery died at the scene. . . Police said they have no suspects and no witnesses have come forward.  “It was broad daylight — it just don’t get more blatant,” said Kali Kellup, Montgomery’s  cousin. ”Somebody saw something.”

No witnesses have come forward.  Kellup also said that people were shocked because his cousin was shot in a little section of the block that was “considered neutral territory.”  That a war zone with agreed-upon “neutral” spaces is an accepted reality in any corner of America ought to be more shocking.

Raised by his grandparents, who have lived on the block for more than 50 years, Montgomery was known to be “happy go-lucky” and constantly in motion. His family said he had the mental state of a child; he was afflicted with an unknown mental condition that doctors could not diagnose.  “He was always happy, always laughing about something,” Kellup said. “Even if you didn’t know what it was, he was laughing about something.”

He was also charged with attempted forcible rape, and kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon, serious charges that got pleaded down to a non-sexual charge.  I tend not to believe people who claim that a predator isn’t responsible for his crimes because of mental incapacity.  If you’re capable of kidnapping and assaulting someone, you’ve got some competence, not to mention enough to face the consequences.  If there are consequences:

As a teenager, Montgomery spent two years at juvenile hall before being charged as an adult with assault with intent to commit a felony, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted forcible rape, according to court documents.  In 2003, two years after he was taken into custody, his court-appointed attorney agreed to a plea on his behalf. Montgomery was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, and the other charges were dropped, according to court records. Montgomery was sentenced to two years in state prison; however, he was given over two years of credit for time in custody and good behavior and was released, according to court records.

Two years, and no record as a sex offender, for assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted forced rape.  That’s what passes for normal these days, but the Justice Department and their Crime Experts keep insisting that we are far too harsh on all offenders, that we need to roll back sentencing even more.  To what, minutes or hours in a cell?  When you already get time served for armed kidnapping and attempted forcible rape, or a slap on the wrist and two-time early release for assault with a deadly weapon, what exactly are we going to cut?  The people controlling this debate are not speaking honestly.

Kellup said he believed his cousin was innocent.  “He was basically a fall guy,” he said. “It was a travesty of justice.”

Just a “fall guy” in a kidnapping and attempted rape?  Hmm, with a deadly weapon involved?  If everyone, from the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the judge, to his own family, had not worked so hard to excuse Montgomery’s prior crime, then he would probably still be alive today.  In prison, but not dead.

“I wish they’d stop the killing,” Montgomery’s grandmother said. “Young people killing one another for no reason at all.”

The Guilty Project, Tommy Lee Sailor (Updated): The Media Proves Me Wrong

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The St. Petersburg Times has been digging into Tommy Lee Sailor’s past, asking hard questions about Florida’s many failures to keep Sailor behind bars.  Sailor is the serial rapist and self-described serial killer who was deemed “reformed” by Florida Corrections — until last New Year’s Eve, that is.  Only his victim’s courage, quick thinking by 911 operator Ve’Etta Bess, and quick action by the police saved that victim’s life.

So on the one side, you have the response of public safety professionals, and the victim herself.  On the other side, you have the courts, and the Department of Corrections, and Sailor’s attorneys, and even prosecutors, all agreeing to let Sailor go, or not even try him for sex crimes, not once or twice, but repeatedly.

The cops catch them, and then the courts let them go.

In the wake of Sailor’s violent holiday rampage, I predicted that local media would not dig into Sailor’s previous history, nor name officials who let him off easy in the past.

I love being wrong about stuff like this.

St. Pete Times reporter Rebecca Catalanello just filed this story.  She names some names.  It is damning.  This exposé ought to be required reading for any state legislator planning to try to roll back the state’s “three–strikes” laws in order to save money.

Because Tommy Lee Sailor is what happens when you cut corners on public safety:

TAMPA — “I’m a serial rapist,” he taunted her. “I’m a serial killer.”  His hands closed around her neck and things went black. . . [P]olice had come to the neighborhood before. Detectives knew the man she said attacked her. Judges and probation officers knew him, too.  Tommy Lee Sailor, 37, had been arrested at least 30 times before the Jan. 1 attack — never for murder, but three times on rape charges. He had spent only three years outside prison since age 16.  Four times, probation officers told judges and parole commissioners that prison was the best place for Sailor.  In July, after the last warning, the Florida Department of Corrections released him, counting on an ankle monitor and a probation officer to track his whereabouts.

So, despite 30 arrests, and pleas from parole officers that he was too dangerous to release, the Florida Department of Corrections decided to take another chance on Sailor.  How hateful, towards the victims.

The buck stops with the heads of state agencies in cases like this, or at least it ought to.  But Charlie Crist’s appointee, Walter McNeill, has not made a public statement about his department’s failure to keep women in Florida safe by taking Sailor’s crimes seriously.

Why no comment from above?  And where is Frederick B. Dunphy, head of the Florida Parole Commission?

Is there any single legislator in Tallahassee planning to ask these men some hard questions about early release of violent recidivists?  That needs to be part of the discussion about rolling back the state’s three-strikes law.

These are the things state officials know about Sailor.  When he was 11, police charged him with lewd and lascivious behavior with a child. A judge withheld adjudication.

Sexual assault of a child.  And the state does nothing, except protect Sailor’s anonymity so he could go on to rape other children.  Rapists start young, and they target children in their family and neighborhoods before moving on the more difficult targets.  We know this: we’ve known it for a long time.  No judge belongs on the bench if he or she doesn’t act on such knowledge.  Who was the judge?  That judge wasn’t named.  But they should come forward and explain themselves.  Because what that judge did was sentence Sailor’s first known victim, and probably many more young victims, to the act of being raped.  That judge saw only one victim: the rapist.  He or she violated every principle of justice.

But, hey, it’s just a rape victim.  Or maybe 20.

[Sailor] made it to the ninth grade at the former Monroe Junior High School. But in 1987 alone he got arrested 11 times. Among his listed offenses: aggravated assault, grand theft motor vehicle and battery on a law enforcement officer.  At age 16, he armed himself with a can of Mace and stole beer. The courts had heard enough. A judge sent him to prison. Earlier crimes caught up with him, lengthening his sentence.  He earned a GED in prison, then got out in 1992 at age 20.

Three or four years for one sexual assault (probably many more), dozens of arrests, violent crimes.  Welcome to the bad old days, before three strikes.  Only they’re beginning to look a lot like the present, despite three strikes laws that sit on the books.  Will anyone in Tallahassee talk about that?

[Sailor] still faced 30 years’ probation when he moved in with his Port Tampa grandmother and got a job at a Subway.  Eleven months after his release, he was charged with robbery.  Probation officers Maureen Watson and Annetta Austin recommended that Sailor be returned to prison “for the maximum time allowed,” his probation permanently revoked. Sailor, wrote Watson, “is not a good candidate for any type of street supervision due to his violent tendencies and continual criminal behavior.”

Too bad nobody listened.

Sailor, then 21, had been out of prison little more than a year when three women told police he had raped them, all within a month.  One woman, a former girlfriend, said they were sharing a beer in a Port Tampa park on Valentine’s Day 1994, when he dragged her to the men’s bathroom, choked her and forced himself on her. She was 29.  Two weeks later, on March 1, he met a medical assistant at a gas station and drove her to a secluded spot near MacDill Air Force Base, where he beat her, raped her, then apologized and wiped her mouth. She was 27.  Two weeks after that, he met a Circle K clerk at a bar. They wound up in her car, which got stuck in the sand on a dirt path at the edge of the base.  The clerk, who was 29, tried to stay calm while he raped her repeatedly. Afterward, she cried and asked him why.  “Because I knew you wanted it,” he said, according to a police report.

So this is a persuasive guy, groomed by lenient judges and lenient prosecutors and lenient parole officials to know that a predator like him can get away with serial rape in Florida.  Where’s the thrill in that?

Prosecutors dropped the Valentine’s Day case. The victim, who previously had consensual sex with Sailor, waited a month to report the attack and was, according to police, reluctant to take him to court.  As the other two cases headed to trial, Sailor struck a deal.  Sentencing guidelines at the time suggested he could serve 11 to 19 years in prison for each sexual battery, if convicted.  Probation officers Annetta Austin and Maria Hanes recommended the maximum. They also wanted Sailor to spend an additional 17 years in prison for breaking the terms of his probation.  Had that happened, he might have been an old man when released.  Instead, he pleaded guilty to the two rapes and an unrelated robbery.  Circuit Judge Donald Evans, now retired, approved the deal.

Shame on Judge Evans.  Shame on every single judge who lets sex offenders like this shave down their time behind bars, for no other reason but that all the other judges do it.  I’m hardly surprised that some of Sailor’s victims were reluctant to testify.  Why should they believe the state would protect them?  And for what?  Subject yourself to that terror, not to mention the humiliation of being abused by a scummy defense lawyer on the stand, and then all the judge is going to do is give your rapist exactly the same amount of time anyway?

Concurrent sentencing. How many lives have been lost to the ethically discordant sound of those words?

We should gain some clarity on this fact: concurrent sentencing is a prosecutor and a judge saying to the victim: “Your life will count half, or a third, or a tenth as much as your rapist’s life counts.  He can go out and rape you and your mother and your sister, and we will value his future freedom over the crimes two of the three of you have experienced.  Three of you equals one of him, in the eyes of the court.  Now shut up and go home.”

We’re appalled by stories like this one from Pakistan, where rape victims get punished for their assailant’s crimes.  But, really, how different is it to place a Tommy Lee Sailor back onto the streets by denying the legal personhood of some of his victims?

The story of Sailor’s most recent trip back to freedom is simply horrifying.  Over the years, the Times reports, multiple parole officers begged parole commissioners and judges to keep him behind bars.  Up the chain of command, however, there was always somebody willing to let him go.

Here is Sailor, snowing Parole Examiner John B. Doyle with some fabricated story about finishing beauty school and finding work.  Why, precisely, did anyone in Parole think it was a good idea for a convicted serial rapist to become a beautician in the first place?  I can’t believe I have to write that down.  It’s nauseating to think about, isn’t it?

The Florida Parole Commission sent a hearing examiner, John B. Doyle, to meet with [Sailor]. Doyle heard from Sailor, Tampa police Officer Michael Jacobson and probation officer Aaron Gil.  “I would like to get another chance so that I can finish school,” Sailor told Doyle.  Gil recommended that Sailor go back to prison, based “on the seriousness of his original offenses.”  But Doyle, the examiner, decided otherwise.  “You did a lot of time on the street, Tommy, and you’re doing something with your life, getting to school,” Doyle said, according to an audio recording of the hearing. “But it looks like you’re having a small problem with drinking. I did find you guilty of all charges, but I’ll take a gamble on you.”  Doyle noted that Sailor was about to finish training at the beauty school. That meant he would be able to get a job. That meant he could repay the cost of his supervision.  At the time, Sailor owed $2,868 to the Department of Corrections.  On July 22, the parole commission met and agreed to let Sailor stay on probation.

Will any legislator hold hearings on this travesty of justice?  Will any legislator hold the Parole Board responsible for what they have done?

Good for the St. Pete Times.  They may have saved lives with their reporting.  I’m going to go buy the newspaper.